That bloomin' pension again
The negotiations between Royal Bank of Scotland's new chairman, Sir Philip Hampton, and the bank's former chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, over Sir Fred's sensational pension deal have descended into near farce.
Sir Philip has been trying to persuade Sir Fred that it would be in his interest to voluntarily give up some of his £16.9m pension pot.
He's told Sir Fred on several occasions - the last time around a week ago - that it would be good for his reputation to make the sacrifice and good for the battered bank's.
On each occasion, Sir Fred has said he would ponder.
But the pondering has prompted nothing in the way of deeds - presumably because Sir Fred has made the reasonable calculation that whatever stain there may be on his reputation in the UK is unlikely to be washed away by any kind of self-denying gesture of this sort.
However, as I reported on 17 March, there was one exception to this immovability - which was in respect of a lump sum paid to Sir Fred.
I pointed out that Sir Fred had already received a £2.7m cash lump sum from his pension fund, thus reducing his annual pension payment (which he's already receiving, aged 50) from £703,000 to £555,000.
He was able to take this substantial sum tax free, under the terms of his pension arrangements with Royal Bank - the bank had agreed to pay the tax liability of considerably more than £1m on the payment.
Now, Sir Philip did persuade Sir Fred to repay the lump sum, but subject to an important condition - which is that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs would have to agree not to levy tax on the initial payment.
This waiver from HMRC was necessary, for the obvious reason that neither Royal Bank or Sir Fred wanted to face a stonking tax bill on a lump sum he had given back.
Royal Bank was hopeful that HMRC would be happy to pretend that the original payment had never taken place.
It was wrong: HMRC has refused to play ball.
The tax authority has told RBS that even if Sir Fred gives the money back, it will still demand more than £1m in tax from him. Apparently, if it weren't to do this, an unfortunate precedent would be set.
So, after all that, it doesn't look as though Sir Fred will repay the tax-free lump sum.
He'll probably keep the £2.7m and will continue to receive £555,000 a year.
We're back to where we started on all this.
And for those of you bored witless by this saga (and I know there are lots of you who are in this category), I will endeavour to return to it only if something of genuine moment were to occur (and I honestly can't think what that would be).